Israel will not entrust its security to the hands of "strangers" and will do "everything needed" to protect its citizens if war is forced upon it, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi warned on Monday, during a speech in Berlin which contained a veiled reference to Iran.
Ashkenazi spoke mostly in Hebrew at a Holocaust memorial situated on platform 17 of the GrÃ¼newald train station in Berlin, which commemorates the forced train deportations of Jews to Nazi concentration camps. He was accompanied by the Commander of the Bundeswehr (German Federal Defense Force), General Wolfgang Schneiderhan.
Alluding to repeated comments by Iranian leaders calling for Israel's destruction, Ashkenazi said, "Today, sixty four years after the last train led Jews from this platform to death camps, and sixty one years after the Jewish homeland was founded, anti-Semitism refuses disappear from the world. It changes its face, language, path and justifications, but its aim remains the same. Today, state leaders openly declare their desire to destroy the State of Israel, and deny the right of the Jewish people to national sovereignty.
"The Jewish nation renewed itself in its land, and is committed to its independence and security. The IDF, the protector of the Jewish nation, is not a warmongering military, but a defensive military. We do not relish combat, but, if war is forced upon us, we will do all that is necessary so that Israeli citizens can sit safely in their homes. No one should test our power," Ashkenazi said.
"The cry of our Jewish brothers and sisters who marched into train cars, led, beaten and humiliated, echoes to this day," Ashkenazi said. "We are obligated never to underestimate those who plot to harm us, never to entrust our security in the hands of strangers, and not to allow anyone to control the future of the Jewish people," he added.
Switching to English, Ashkenazi said, "In the name of the entire Jewish nation, I'm committed to do our utmost in order to prevent Jewish blood from being spilled once again."
Ashkenazi, the son of a Bulgarian Jewish Holocaust survivor, had earlier visited the Wanssee Villa, where in 1942, Nazi leaders had conspired to annihilate Europe's Jewish communities.
He paid tribute to the close cooperation between the IDF and the German militaries, noting that "the very fact that the German Chief of the General Staff and the Israeli Chief of Staff are standing here together, shoulder to shoulder, sixty four years after the Second World War, and the warm cooperation our militaries share, demonstrate our steadfast determination that never again will such atrocities occur."
The Iranian nuclear program will form one of the central talking points for Ashkenazi and his German counterpart. Germany is also scheduled to deliver two Dolphin Submarines to the Israeli Navy.
Ashkenazi has met with no less than four foreign military heads in recent weeks, including the US's Admiral Michael Glenn Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and France's Chief of the Defense Staff, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, both of whom he met in France at the beginning of the month. The IDF Spokesman said the meetings were routine.
Last week, the Canadian Armed Forces Chief of the Defense Staff, General Walter J. Natynczyk, met Ashkenazi during a visit to Israel.
Ashkenazi also addressed the Goldstone report which accused Israel of committing war crimes during its winter Gaza offensive to stem rocket fire on southern Israel, and said that he did not encounter "any influence of the report" in meetings with his counterpart.
"European militaries are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and are running into similar problems [that we faced in Gaza]," Ashkenazi said, adding that the IDF could share its experience with the armed forces of Israel's partners.